North America: Plains
Materials: hide, wood, glass beads
This object is a beaded cradle board that was made by Mrs. Ahpeatoni, a Kiowa woman from Mountain View, Oklahoma. In typical Plains cradle fashion, this is a handmade wooden frame decorated with buckskin and glass beads. Along with the Kiowa tribe, many other tribes of the Plains region created cradleboards for their infants. Many of these tribes traditionally lived nomadic lifestyles, cradleboards provided protection for the baby’s head and neck during travel and made the infants easier to carry while the mother worked during the day. The cradle could be worn as a backpack, or hung from a tree or tipi pole. According to elders, the cradles were constructed upright to help the baby see adults at eye level and helped to socialize the baby.
Kiowa cradleboards are often made using a V-shaped frame made of two long pieces of wood. Men made the wooden frames for the cradles, and female family members made the buckskin pouch and beaded the exterior as a gift for the expecting mother. Kiowa cradles are often beaded in both floral and geometric motifs in many bright colors. This particular cradle’s beadwork is sewn with a “lazy stitch” style. The history of the term “lazy stitch” is explained here. Despite the age of this cradle, the vivid colors of the beadwork are still visible and attest to the rich and lavish artistry. Beaded cradles are still made today by contemporary artists and they continue to be a symbol of pride and traditional culture.
Below is a short video showing a Northern Paiute version of a cradleboard and how the infants would be traditionally wrapped into a cradleboard.